5 Education Systems Turning Out the Workforce Your Startup Needs
… and 2 that you think are but aren’t
Summary by Maureen Lea from Alarice International
Adapted from the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Educating for the Future Index.
Dec 15, 2017
As the nature of work continues to change, education systems often lag, turning out graduates with skills gaps needing on the job training and creating vacancies in areas where few hold adequate qualifications. Standardized testing, outdated institutions and teaching approaches from another era also affect the quality of future employees.
“Content knowledge is becoming a commodity. The world no longer cares about what students know, but what they can do with what they know,” says Tony Wagner, of Harvard University’s Innovation Lab.
With this in mind, some places have prioritized reform and made significant efforts to turn out citizens who are work-ready and future-oriented. These people are the startup stars and employees of the next generation. Who’s creating them and how?
The Yidan Prize Foundation commissioned the Economist Intelligence Unit to study the issue and produce the world’s first ever comprehensive benchmarking tool that focuses on inputs to education systems, as opposed to outputs such as test scores that are used in studies like the OECD’s PISA. They wanted to examine the root causes of current education system failings and create a blueprint for governments to improve.
The study focused on three environments — education policy, teaching environment and socio-economic backdrop — and skills for the future such as:
· Interdisciplinary skills
· Creative and analytical skills
· Entrepreneurial skills
· Leadership skills
· Digital and technical skills
· Global awareness and civic education
The study focused on education for the next workplace cohort of youth aged 15–24 in 35 economies worldwide. Between them, these places represent 88 percent of global GDP and 77 percent of the global population and were also selected for geographic diversity. Asia, Europe, North America, South America, Africa and Oceania are all represented.
What exactly did the study measure? Eight of the index’s 16 indicators* are based on quantitative data such as government expenditure on post-secondary education and the average high school teacher’s salary (rated in US dollars using the Purchasing Power Parity model). Eight indicators are qualitative assessments of things such as the availability of career counselling in high schools and the presence of subjects for career marketability. These were given scores from 0–2 and a percentage was factored into the final score.
The largest category, teaching environment, accounts for half of the index. Within this category, the quality of teacher education makes up the largest share, accounting for 20 percent of the category.
Wherever possible, publicly available data from official sources from the latest available year were used.
So… what were the key findings?
- New Zealand leads the world in providing future skills education for its youth
- Small, well-resourced areas with liberal traditions fare best
Smaller, richer economies are at the forefront of providing their younger generations with the skills required by future labor markets. With comprehensive education policies, well-qualified teachers and robust assessment frameworks to test for future skills, New Zealand, Canada, Finland, Switzerland and Singapore come out as the top performers.
Economies with liberal social traditions are more likely to encourage the independent and critical mindsets that will help young people thrive in a fast-changing world. Finland, New Zealand and the UK take the top three spots in this domain.
- More than half of the studied areas are not investing in or assessing future skills
Despite positive forward momentum in some regions, more than half the education systems in the index are failing to invest in or effectively assess skills needed for the future, such as critical thinking, collaboration and global citizenship.
Michael Gold, the EIU’s report editor said, “Education systems must prepare our youth for the era of information and disruption, or there will be significant implications for the global economy. Our ground-breaking index points out concrete steps that will help policymakers cope with a complex future.”
Other notable findings:
- Fewer than half of the economies surveyed put sufficient focus on crucial fields like global citizenship and project-based learning.
- The two countries supplying the largest pool of workers in the world, India and China, are below average overall showing the further need for education reform with a focus on future skills.
- Singapore is the best-performing economy in Asia, ranking 5th overall and 1st in education policy environment.
- Argentina ranks first among middle-income economies and the Philippines takes top spot for low-income markets.
Let’s take a closer look at the top 5 performers.
1. New Zealand — 88.9 (all scores out of 100)
New Zealand comes in at the top with a curriculum framework for future skills, quality teacher education, collaboration between universities and industry and cultural diversity and tolerance.
As a small, remote country that needs to compete globally, its government understands that it needs an education system that meets high standards in terms of technology, teaching, curriculum and collaboration.
Technology is viewed as an educational tool rather than an end it itself and New Zealand has about 200 clusters of interconnected schools it calls “communities of learning” to further this aim.
Room for improvement:
● It fell behind in teachers’ salaries, where it came in 19th.
2. Canada — 86.7
Canada scores highly for teacher training, future skills strategies and curricula as well as policy implementation.
It also excels in collaboration with business, the community and higher education institutions and within the classroom, it does well in terms of project-based learning, group work and portfolio-based learning.
As for its wider society, it comes near the top and is seen as free and fair.
Room for improvement:
● It lacks an assessment framework for peer-to-peer, group work and portfolio-based work and ranks 17th for teachers’ salaries.
● Government expenditure on post-secondary education ranks 30th behind Indonesia.
3. Finland — 85.5
Finland is a familiar name atop international education ratings but it’s one of only a few places that has a strong correlation with its rankings on other studies, such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings.
It’s strengths lie in many areas including teacher training, which is the legacy of radical improvements started 40 years ago to improve teacher quality, and the professional status of teachers. As the Open Society Foundations’ Pasi Sahlberg says, “Raising the professional and societal status of teachers is a better path to more effective teaching than simply raising salaries.”
Other areas they excel in include policy implementation, collaboration between schools and with businesses, global citizenship skills and their socio-economic environment. They rate highly for the use of project-based learning and, along with France, are one of only two economies that provide strong assessment frameworks to test this kind of learning.
They have also added entrepreneurship skills to the curriculum. As Mr Wagner notes, “Trial and error and iteration are the hallmarks of the innovation era.”
Room for improvement:
● They rank 13th in teachers’ salaries.
4 Switzerland — 81.5
Switzerland benefits from quality teacher training, effective policy implementation and a high socio-economic standing. Along with countries like New Zealand, Canada and Finland, it is seen as a free and fair society.
It also does well in terms of collaboration with businesses, other schools and society as a whole. It reaps the rewards of being a small, wealthy country.
Room for improvement:
● It comes 31st in terms of government expenditure on post-secondary education. Rich economies like Switzerland and Canada may want to rethink their national priorities and put more resources into this area.
5 Singapore — 80.1
Singapore fared well in many areas and has made progress by elevating the status of teachers. “The culture of Singapore has moved to a place where the profession of teaching is more highly valued by families and parents,” says David Hung of the Singapore National Institute of Education.
There’s a strong grounding in foundational literacies such as languages and STEM subjects which enables students to easily adapt to different situations and less regimented workplaces.
Room for improvement:
● Singapore’s high-stakes exams may overshadow reform measures in other areas of the system.
● Leadership and entrepreneurial skills as well as soft skills need greater emphasis.
● Acceptance of non-traditional paths needs to improve in order to produce talented innovators and mavericks.
2 places you think are ahead of the game, but aren’t
Taiwan - It has a strong reputation for STEM subjects but it ranks only 19th.
Israel - It comes in 28th despite being known as the “startup nation”.
One to watch: Argentina — Transforming its System
It came out on top of the middle-income economies and is focusing on knowledge economy skills. It’s improved in teacher quality, government funding for education as well as future skills in the curriculum. As Esteban Bullrich, Argentina’s Minister of Education, puts it, “The education system is like an old car that you keep on upgrading. But we’ve left that old car behind and jumped into a spaceship that we’re building from scratch.”
To access the full report, visit http://educatingforthefuture.economist.com/
The Yidan Prize Foundation seeks to make the world a better place through education and build a community of like-minded educators, policy-makers and innovators working toward this aim. It supports initiatives such as research, the Yidan Prize and the Yidan Prize Summit.
The Yidan Prize is the world’s biggest education prize awarding HK$30 million to each of two laureates in Education Research and Education Development. The inaugural laureates are Carol Dweck for her research into the educational effects of a growth mindset and Vicky Colbert for her foundational work on the Escuela Nueva educational model, used with vulnerable and rural populations in Columbia and elsewhere creating learners who regularly outperform students in more stable environments. To register as a nominator and help us find outstanding candidates for next year’s Yidan Prize, click here.
The Yidan Prize Foundation held their inaugural summit in Hong Kong on December 11th. Academics, EdTech and startup entrepreneurs, policy leaders and NGOs from around the world met to discuss 4 key topics related to future education. To see the day’s agenda and topics, click here and for video of discussions from the day, click here.
- The index’s 16 indicators:
1) POLICY ENVIRONMENT 30%
1.1) Comprehensiveness of education strategy on skills for the future 35%
1.1.1) Existence of strategy Rating 0–3
1.1.2) Milestones and action plan Rating 0–2
1.1.3) Monitoring and evaluation metrics Rating 0–2
1.2) Existence of curriculum frameworks to support educating for skills for the future 20%
1.2.1) Presence of skills for the future in curriculum guidelines Rating 0–2
1.2.2) Presence of creating global citizens in curriculum guidelines Rating 0–2
1.2.3) Presence of project-based learning in curriculum guidelines Rating 0–2
1.2.4) Focus on career guidance and counselling Rating 0–2
1.2.5) Relevance of textbooks for skills for the future Rating 0–2
1.3) Existence of assessment frameworks to support educating for skills for the future 20%
1.3.1) Assessment frameworks to test skills for the future Rating 0–2
1.3.2) Assessment frameworks to test global citizenship skills Rating 0–2
1.3.3) Assessment frameworks for project-based learning Rating 0–2
1.4) Effectiveness of system in policy implementations Rating 0–5 25%
2) TEACHING ENVIRONMENT 50%
2.1) Quality of teacher education 20%
2.1.1) Consistency of teacher qualifications Rating 0–2
2.1.2) Relevance of teacher education to skills for the future Rating 0–2
2.2) Teacher qualifications (secondary and post-secondary level teaching) Rating 0–5 15%
2.3) Average teacher salary (high school) US$ PPP 10%
2.4) Government expenditure on education (post-secondary) % of GDP 10%
2.5) Availability of career counselling for youth in schools 15%
2.5.1) Career counselling services in high schools Rating 0–2
2.5.2) Career counselling services in universities Rating 0–2
2.5.3) Presence of subjects for career marketability Rating 0–2
2.6) Availability of opportunities for students to collaborate beyond classrooms 15%
2.6.1) Availability and support for study abroad at high school level Rating 0–2
2.6.2) Collaboration across schools at high school level Rating 0–2
2.6.3) Availability and support for study abroad at university level Rating 0–2
2.7) University-industry collaboration Rating 0–2 15%
3) SOCIO-ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT 20%
3.1) Cultural diversity and tolerance Score 0–6 31.6%
3.2) Free and open society 31.6%
3.2.1) World Press Freedom Index Score
3.2.2) Corruption Perceptions Index Score
3.2.3) Democracy Index Score
3.3) Gender diversity Score 15.8%
3.4) Environmental performance Score 10.5%
3.5) Participation in multilateral agreements 10.5%
3.5.1) Human rights treaties Score
3.5.2) Environmental treaty ratifications # of ratifications